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Monday, July 15, 2024

Apple, Google having a field day, suck in unwary investors

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“… despite the ban on Binance’s website, its mobile app remains readily available for downloading on both the Apple Store and Google Play Store.”

Tech giants Apple and Google wield so much power over the digital landscape that some nations are forced to say enough is enough—and it is time to play by the rules.

South Korea took a bold step in 2021 by passing the “Anti-Google Law,” aimed at curbing the monopolistic practices of app store operators like Google and Apple. The law now prohibits these giants from compelling app developers to use their in-app payment systems, signaling a concerted effort to rein in their power.

South Korea’s government last year even threatened millions of dollars in fines, alleging that Google and Apple abused their dominant app market position.

The virtual duopoly of Google and Apple, indeed, looms large, casting a debilitating shadow over regulators.

Recent events in the Philippines highlighted the alarming reality of their unchecked power, as shown by the helplessness of regulatory bodies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in enforcing bans on unregistered and unlicensed platforms.

The SEC and NTC last month unequivocally banned Binance Holdings Ltd., a cryptocurrency exchange operating without proper registration and licensing.

The ban followed the ruling of US District Judge Richard Jones in Washington. “Binance profited from the US financial system without playing by its rules and, as a result, criminals used the exchange to move hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen funds and illicit proceeds,” he said.

Binance’s actions were terrifying and led to an admission by the founder when he entered a guilty plea in that case. Binance, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, was ordered to pay $4.3 billion for violations of anti-money laundering and sanctions laws in a settlement approved by the US judge

Here at home, Binance tried to establish a foothold in the Philippine market. It is using several online platforms to wage an aggressive marketing campaign for various investment products to unsuspecting Filipino investors, despite the absence of a license and a local corporate base. There is no question that Binance’s operations are illegal.

However, despite the ban on Binance’s website, its mobile app remains readily available for downloading on both the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

This brazen disregard for regulatory authority underscores the alarming extent of Google’s and Apple’s influence―they continue to facilitate access to banned platforms with impunity.

This is not an isolated incident either. Other unregulated and likewise banned apps, such as OctaFX, MiTrade and Etoro, to name a few, continue to thrive on these app stores, despite a months-long ban imposed by our regulators.

Ads for these apps are even being posted on Google and Apple app stores. This is a clear demonstration of the their ability to operate beyond the reach of state authorities, rendering regulatory actions ineffective.

How can Google and Apple blatantly shun our government’s directives? How come nobody is talking about this?

Philippine regulators, unlike those in South Korea, are still grasping at straws on how to enforce bans against platforms hosted on the Apple Store and Google Play Store. The inability to effectively regulate these digital behemoths not only undermines the authority of regulatory bodies but raises questions about their credibility in safeguarding the interests of Filipino consumers and investors.

Compounding the issue is the difficulty in getting in touch with these foreign corporations, as openly admitted by local government agencies. The lack of direct communication further exacerbates the challenges faced by regulatory bodies, leaving them (and ultimately the Filipino people) with limited recourse against tech giants that operate with near impunity.

Philippine regulators and lawmakers must learn the lessons from South Korea and take decisive steps to assert their authority over Apple and Google. Failure to do so risks perpetuating a system where foreign companies dictate the digital landscape, rendering local regulatory efforts futile.

The unchecked power of Google and Apple poses a significant threat to regulators in the Philippines. The recent events surrounding Binance serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for regulators and lawmakers to assert their authority and ensure accountability from these tech giants.

It’s time to take a stand and demand responsibility to address this persistent issue before it’s too late.

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